Dungeness Crab Season 2016!
We Love Dungeness Crab!
Nothing screams autumn on the west coast like fresh, succulent Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister). Bay Area crab-lovers eagerly await the opening of the season every November. Unfortunately, this year, the state Department of Public Health has issued restrictions due to a toxin known as domoic acid, which can cause everything from mild gastrointestinal illness to death in severe cases.
Sadly, humans are not the only ones affected by this neurotoxin. Hundreds of marine mammals and birds have been sickened and died due to the unusually high levels of the toxic acid occurring off the coast this year.
Domoic acid is produced by a highly toxic bloom of phytoplankton that has taken up residency along the west coast of the United States, stretching from the Monterey Bay up through the Gulf of Alaska. While algae blooms are a common occurrence along the west coast, the dimensions and virility of this particular bloom is completely unprecedented. Climate researchers have concluded that unusually warm ocean temperatures are the likely culprit behind this massive algae bloom.
At this point, with the domoic acid levels too high for safe consumption of the beloved, luscious crustaceans, the recreational and commercial harvest has been delayed indefinitely in California, Oregon and Washington. This will hit our local fisheries hard, which may be devastating to small, family-owned operations. The razor clam season will likely be lost this year in both Washington and Oregon, with fisheries along the entire west coast now also suffering from delays in the opening of commercial Dungeness crab season.
Bay Area fisheries typically sell the majority of their annual Dungeness Crab catch between Thanksgiving and Chinese New Year, commanding high prices throughout the holidays. The good news is that the toxic acid levels may improve as the winter storm season sets in, although delays of several months are a very real possibility as well.
We’ll keep our fingers crossed for a swift change of tides in the coming weeks and post once our beloved Dungeness crab is available, so stay tuned…!